Life Mastery, Mystery

Vanity of Vanities

“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” Viktor E. Frankl, Austrian Neurologist, Survivor of the Holocaust & Author of Man’s Search for Meaning.
After years of much learning through observation, research and experimentation, the wisest king who ever lived made a simple yet troubling conclusion on life: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12:8). Unlike Frankl, this is not the musings of a suffering sage, this is the wisdom of a pleasure-seeking monarch. Solomon lived in a time of peace and he gave expression to whatever desire he had. Apart from being the king of Israel, he built such an impeccable organization that drew the attention of distant civilizations, that came en masse to witness the rarity of his intelligence, and his palace became a museum of sort for political excursions.
Hence, it is neither poverty nor fatality that made Solomon to pen this brutally candid treatise on the meaninglessness that chokes all of life and sucks out any kind of enduring pleasure or fulfilment in it. This was a man in his right senses. Fully engaged in the business of steering a kingdom and perhaps producing blueprints for political advancement, yet his innermost being could not dismiss a deep-seated dissatisfaction he had with life.
Vanity or meaninglessness is an inescapable reality that challenges your experience of life, regardless of your position, status, education, religion, race, culture etc. It seems to me that once you are born into this world, the question of meaning begins to confront you at some point in life and it never leaves you until you settle it. Usually, when this inner craving for meaning begins, we misrepresent it as a desire for something we don’t have like a job, house, car, spouse, children, vacation, wealth, position, education, status and so on.
Your experience of life by now, should have proven you wrong except that you will not learn that lesson with one or a few instances in your own experience. You will maintain that you are feeling like that because there is something else that you don’t have. And when you get that thing, you will be excited! Your dream is coming to pass. But “…oh no, the feeling is back!” The dream becomes a nightmare. “Why am I feeling like this in spite of having ‘this and that’?
You feel like that because you think the things you get in life (as listed previously) are the producers of joy and fulfilment (the two key indicators of meaning/purpose). Even as beautiful as positive relationships can be (which happens to be more satisfactory than personal achievements), that in themselves cannot clear the dark cloud of vanity that rests forcefully on the human spirit. There is something beyond this cloud, beyond this darkness that has the answer to the persistent tugging upon your heart, the struggle to understand life, even your own life, and perhaps to reconcile the paradoxes of life.
What is that thing?
Light. Not just enlightenment but divine illumination. The human soul has great potentialities and it does get some glimmers of light every once in a while. But the problem with that is, this light is not sufficient to clear the cloud of uncertainty and vanity off of your spirit. These kinds of lights are lights that helps you to make sense of life within the status quo or larger context of darkness. That’s like having a lit candle or torchlight to see your way in the house at night when there is no electricity. If there is power supply, then in the context of the house, there is no darkness, but what about outside the house? Even with the streetlights and all the lighting systems of modern and postmodern civilization, they do not deal with the larger darkness. They only take care of the immediate need for sight (vision) but does not change the night to day.
Philosophers, psychologists and scientists generally have some good things to say and have made great contributions to the experience of life but you must know that this is offering a little light in the larger context of darkness. Although, with these great disciplines, man has discovered a lot about himself and his environment, yet he has not resolved the mystery of his reason for being. The questions of “Who am I?” (identity), “Why am I here?” (purpose), “Where am I going?” (destiny) are questions that require a penetrating illumination from above the cloud of vanity that buffets man. When this illumination occurs, there is a link between heaven and earth, and a privileged “trafficking” will commence that totally shorts out the “vanity of vanities” that afflict mankind. The only thing that has penetrated this globalized sense of meaninglessness, and has pierced the unfortunate cloud of vanity upon humanity is the cross.
The cross of Jesus Christ, creating a permanent vertical link between you and heaven, that horizontally (instantly) goes into your past to deal with the hurts, painful memories, sufferings and adversity, removing its sting and poison from afflicting you in the present, and charts a course of destiny ahead of you that does not only meet your expectations but exceeds your longing for joy, fulfilment and purposefulness.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

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Encouragement, Grace, Life Mastery

Pain is a launching pad not a sinking hole

Whereas our faith will cooperate with God to avoid certain occurrences that do not match His plans for our lives, there are some unpleasant events that are beyond the jurisdiction of faith, simply because they are occurrences that don’t depend on us to happen. We can understand this easily with natural disasters like Hurricane, earthquakes and all, but when it comes to the region of our personal affairs, where our actions and reactions are always directly proportional to our experiences, it could get a little bit confusing. 

The point here is this: we must continue to believe what God says about us. We must keep sowing the seeds of good actions in order to reap an harvest of wonderful consequences. However, a number of occurrences do happen because they have been predetermined. They fulfill a clear principle in Scriptures that underscore the inevitability of opposites in our experience. We find this in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Verse 1 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”.

“The human experience is not complete without the experience of opposites.”

Time and season. They clearly demarcate our experiences, regardless of our faith, producing events and occurrences according to the timetable of God for our lives. While no one will pray to experience pain, we have all experienced it regardless. If there is a season for everything, it means there is a season to lose, to mourn, to refrain from embrace, to die etc. And a proper time is alloted by God to all these things, according to the purpose they are meant to serve in our lives. 

Hence, we must be thoroughly immersed into the Person of our God for that is how we will feel secured no matter what is happening around us. We must also be baptised into the Principles and Purpose of God. The Principles teach us that no matter how painful an experience may be, God does not have a substitute for it, that is, He doesn’t have another way to achieve His Purpose than to make us go through an experience on schedule.

And then we must understand that God can never change His purpose. It is called the “immutability of His counsel” in Hebrews 6:17. So, because God’s Purpose cannot be changed, His ways (Principles) of achieving it cannot also be compromised, simply because of His unchangeableness (Person).

When Joshua was too old to continue his assignment, God didn’t say “well, you have not yet finished, let me give you more time!”. (Joshua 13:1, 24:29). The point is, God has allocated His purpose and all accompanying occurrences to a given time. Even though, the work was yet unfinished, Joshua’s time was up. The remaining work spills over to the next generation. This is time and chance that happens to them all according to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (9:11). 

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Psalm 103:7 “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.”

Ephesians 1:11 “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”

Joseph was meant to be the Prime Minister in Egypt but the only route that will take him there was that of pain. The pain in the pit, in potiphar’s house and in the prison. Look at all the pain he had to go through. If he had had his way, he would have avoided pain and by avoiding pain, he would be compromising his destiny to be the Prime Minister altogether. We have to understand that God knows that we will always be on the side of our comfort, that is why He will hardly reveal a coming painful period or event in our lives. He knows we will do all we can to avoid it and if we do, we will NEVER arrive in destiny. 

In Joseph’s case, you could say, “well, but he caused it!”. Well, yes. While he could have done better with managing his personal dreams and all, and by that escape the pit and prison, yet we must know that the actual consequence of an action is not only determined by that action, it is principally determined by God. That is why, even when we make certain mistakes, Grace can overrule the consequences of such errors, if the experience that comes with that consequence is not on God’s timetable. Or at least, it is not yet time for it.

Hence, we must accept that God has determined when and how we will lose a loved one, like a parent. I lost my father 6 years ago. Looking back now, it looked as if his death could have been avoided but that is not the point. The point is, there is a purpose in God’s mind that accompanies that time of loss, and it is that purpose I must focus on (Eccl. 3:1). I hope you won’t misunderstand me.

As you must have seen, we are separating what happens solely by your action or reaction from what happens regardless of your actions and reactions. The fact that some things will happen regardless of our actions do not have to make us irresponsible. It will only reveal to our hearts that there is a more superior principle at work than the one we are operating that we need to submit to. And it is this: 

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Do you believe that? The “all things” are the opposites of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. My duty is not to arraign God at the tribunal of my mind and demand that He defend what He has done or not done. My duty is (1) to know that God always know something that I don’t know. (2) to ensure that I love Him regardless of my outward challenges. (3) to ensure that I follow Him into His predestined purpose for my life. 

With these three things, you will not allow your pain to be a sinking hole, where you despair and get swallowed up by the anguish of a loss or failure, you will rather allow that pain to be a launching pad or springboard for you to enter into the next level of growth and progress for your life. 

NOTE: Please note that we are not saying we should not feel the loss. We don’t have the capacity for that. We are only saying that with an elevated understanding, we will not only “feel” the pain, we will also “turn” the pain to fuel, to move our lives to the next level. Even though I didn’t shed a single tear when my father died, because of the understanding I had (and maybe because men don’t always cry!), I actually cried like 5 years later. That was when my own tears came. 

It is time to look away from the loss or failure… to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. The pain has the capacity to produce your promotion only if you believe what God says about it and practice it.


Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.

Picture credit:  timeinc

Encouragement, Mystery, Spirituality

Why don’t you want to suffer?

Life is after all a school.
…an institute may be.

There are classes and tutors;
Class mates & seniors.
That explains why you can’t run your show by the rules of a class different from yours!

All the rules, guidelines and entire curriculum are determined by the learning objectives of each class.

But regardless of what class you are in today, everyone in this great school must register for one of the core courses.

There are courses like Happiness, Family, Love, Calling in the School of Life. But the one that seems to determine your progress with the remaining courses is Suffering.

As undesirable as it is, everybody has either been through it or will go through it. Indeed, some may be going through it now. Suffering is a difficult thing. It subjects you to, kind of, a lockdown. Like the Lord Christ, all resources of life is temporarily withdrawn from you except volition!

Yes your choice! The decision to compromise your values in a moment of suffering or to uphold it is a fierce contest you are in, in that time space.

Whatever you do, is what you are rewarded for after the entire ordeal is expired. For some, the reward is enjoyable; for others…they just have to live with it!

You know what I mean?

Taking that course and going through that season of suffering is what ushers you in to change. The Old wineskin is removed in preparation for the new wine. The process of separating what must end now in your life in order to gain capacity for what is to come is suffering.

Hence, suffering is not an enemy; it is your ally. When it comes, it is in your own best interest. You are subjected to all kinds of pain and discomfort, just to ascertain your inner worth and expose your true motives and nature.

It is a time when humility is easily embraced. Or what else would you do when you’re introduced to your real self – the self you’ve never known! Regardless of your inner discomfort with all the drama, accepting these “new” ramifications of yourself and submitting to principles challenging them is what makes you come out of the furnace of suffering refined as gold.

“Old things have passed away; all things have become new.”

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Encouragement, Life Mastery, Spirituality

When a breakthrough is inevitable

Don’t interrupt the pattern of purposeful activities you have scheduled for yourself because of the uninteresting state of things. Moments like these are statutory trials required to justify your preparation for a breakthrough.

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they bothshall be alike good. Ecclesiastes 11:6

Breakthrough is an act of divine mercy, yet it is also a reward for consistency. So, a breakthrough is the sudden appearance of opportunity on the continuum of repetitive activities. A breakthrough is a greater responsibility for results based on a current commitment to an uninteresting routine.

If you can sustain the routine of work when there is no recognition, then you had better sustain the quality of that routine or else the responsibilities of a greater level of life cannot be committed to you. You are only qualified for the next level by your commitment and mastery of your present state.

When you don’t hold back your potential and expertise in what may seem boring today, the universe will respond to that strength of character with an exchange of circumstances that offers you a good balance of pleasure for the pain of monotony and delay you have suffered so far.

That sudden supply of overwhelming pleasure that equilibrates pain is what I call a breakthrough.

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Life, Life Mastery, Virtue

Quantum: Hurts

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Where do people get so much passion to pursue a course until they go full circles around the object of their desire…until they possess the gates of their destiny…until they grasp the very reason for their existence? So much drive, purpose, focus, etcetera. They seem to be out of league with the common man. What makes them so different?

It will amaze you to know that passion is a by product of hurts. When a person is hurt, he begins to conserve some energies within himself as he ponders his crisis and lament his weaknesses. As negative as such an experience can be, it offers the best opportunity for a person to derive the necessary energy to pursue a noble course in life. That energy is passion and it is inevitable to any successful venture.

When you are hurt, nature presents you with a life time opportunity to amass the amount of energy necessary for your life’s mission. If you will be of any positive consequence in society; since the society you want to help is a hurting one, then the saviour (change agent, revolutionary) should also be one who can be touched by the feelings of their infirmities. That is, you should have a testimony of recovery from that which you seek to achieve in society. The courage to turn around and replace your hurt with pursuit is what it takes to lead an exodus of hurting humanity to an ideal higher than all their previous experiences put together.

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Any slight introduction of self to some negative expressions evokes a rush of passion you never knew existed within. So, when man thinks he is the only cause of his unfolding life-effects and that he needs not submit to the undisputed reality of God; he has only succeeded in upgrading his captivity and he will create several ‘avatars’ of himself for different occasions in order to retain a measure of sanity in a fast disintegrating world. Meanwhile, he becomes a menace to society, a top security risk as well as a ruthless villain; and while on his way to self-destruct, he mindlessly dispose the unfortunate few that will be caught up in the whirlwind of his own rampage…a minor notwithstanding. 

 

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Life, Reflections, Virtue

Struggle

struggle

C’mon!

Do you like the sound of what you hear? Or is it the sight of what you see? How does it make you to feel? If you are anything like me, you won’t be a fan of such an idea that invokes pain and constricts freedom. But I can guarantee that it defines some aspects (if not all) of our experiences.

And that wayward tentativeness we are prone to that put our lives on hold thinking life itself will immediately stand aside, cowering and awaiting our next command. “Should I, should I not…”. We continue to wonder how conflicting ideas manage to cohabit in our minds. You know what I’m talking about! We all go through this struggle in one form or the other but of course at varying degrees. I wish I could quickly excuse myself from that group prominently known with these ambivalent tendencies. But I guess, I’m still on my way to that point where I can do so boldly.

Since we all struggle, let’s use this energy positively. Take a stand; have your convictions; build your belief system; stand for something or you’ll fall for everything… You should not be free for all…all ideas…all beliefs…all opinions…all changes…blah blah blah!

Scattered rays of sunlight only give light but when they are focused on a surface they ignite fire. Intensity of purpose based on a chosen course of action which is predicated on a firm belief system is what reduces the time taken to struggle before we arrive at a decision and of course kiss our perceived limitations goodbye.

“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

 

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Quote from Proverbs 20:5 is taken from the King James Bible